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Home is where the heart is

Brianna Bailey
National Volunteer Coordinator
Habitat for Humanity El Salvador

   
 

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Brianna with Habitat partner family members and American School volunteers in Nahuizucar, Sonsonate
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Promoting volunteerism is something I naturally fell into while serving two years as a Municipal Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Honduras. Although my projects were plentiful, the most touching and time-consuming project was searching for national volunteers to form a support group for victims of incest and domestic abuse.

The goals of these volunteers were to be extensive and demanding. However, the main motive was to fill them with the enthusiasm to empower these victims into being survivors, pursue a brighter future and serve as a positive reminder of what volunteerism can achieve.

From small business training and self esteem/leadership workshops to local fundraising through raffling cows and promoting national awareness for our cause, my Peace Corps service was concluded, with the support of countless national volunteers as my counterparts, with the construction of an adobe mud block home for a single mother and her four children whom were all victims of incest. This home gave inspiration to this family and the community who participated - especially as the community continues to support the family, not just as volunteers, but as friends and a new family despite my absence.

The ownership of a home serves as this family’s first step to a better future, made possible by volunteerism. The four children of this family are now able to access schooling where they have learned how to read and write, the mother can seek employment, and they can build a future independent of the tragedy they shouldered.

From building adobe homes to cement block homes, I felt the transition to be comfortable from being a Peace Corps Volunteer to working as the National Volunteer Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity El Salvador. My main task is to encourage nationals to understand the role they can play in their community, country, and to promote adequate housing for all. Volunteerism is necessary because not all problems in society are solved by government or paid employees, but often by the intrinsic power of those who act locally as a catalyst in order to achieve a greater cause. Volunteerism to support the cause of adequate housing for those in need is the first step to creating healthier and more sustainable communities worldwide. With a home, we are simply planting a seed in need of volunteerism in order to flourish.

During my five months with Habitat for Humanity El Salvador, I have had the opportunity to promote volunteerism all over the country with the participation of more than 600 national volunteers. In an effort to give these volunteers a more holistic experience of the contribution they are making, I seek non-construction activities for volunteers to interact within the local community or with the families whom are in the process of building a Habitat home. These activities can be as simple as making star fruit juice with the family or teaching a family member how to tie her first pair of shoes, or as complex as a hosting art workshops for all of the kids in the community.

As national volunteerism is growing within Habitat for Humanity El Salvador, the relationships being built between families and volunteers have grown even stronger. The volunteers’ desire to help Habitat families and their communities has gone beyond the realm of construction.

In communities such as Brisas del Jiboa, San Vicente that consists of 132 different families who lost family members, their belongings, and homes in the floods caused by Hurricane Ida in 2009, national volunteers have developed a unique relationship with the community that has kept volunteerism strong. In Brisas del Jiboa, it is uncommon that a volunteer – whether national or international – will return from their experience without having made an unforgettable friendship with a community member. Volunteerism, after all, is not just showing up but more importantly creating a relationship with the cause. Once a relationship has been built, like those that have been built while serving as a volunteer of Habitat for Humanity El Salvador, volunteers begin to understand why “home is where the heart is.” Not simply in their own home, but in the home they have helped build for a family in need so that they can pursue a brighter future.

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After a day of construction during the Lent Build in Getsemaní, Ahuachapán, Volunteers from the American School show off their muscles. During Habitat for Humanity´s Lent Build (March 7-April 22), Habitat El Salvador received over 150 Volunteers from the American School to assist in the construction of seven homes.

 

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In any Habitat for Humanity activity, whether building houses or participating in cultural activities, children from El Salvadorian communities are always present and excited about working alongside volunteers.